Milena Popova

Milena Popova is an independent scholar, activist, and consultant working on culture and sexual consent and the author of Sexual Consent, a volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series.

  • Dubcon

    Fanfiction, Power, and Sexual Consent

    Milena Popova

    How the treatment of sexual consent in erotic fanfiction functions as a form of cultural activism.

    Sexual consent is—at best—a contested topic in Western societies and cultures. The #MeToo movement has brought public attention to issues of sexual consent, revealing the endemic nature of sexual violence. Feminist academic approaches to sexual violence and consent are diverse and multidisciplinary—and yet consent itself is significantly undertheorized. In Dubcon, Milena Popova points to a community that has been considering issues of sex, power, and consent for many years: writers and readers of fanfiction. Their nuanced engagement with sexual consent, Popova argues, can shed light on these issues in ways not available to either academia or journalism.

    Popova explains that the term “dubcon” (short for “dubious consent”) was coined by the fanfiction community to make visible the gray areas between rape and consent—for example, in situations where the distribution of power may limit an individual's ability to give meaningful consent to sex. Popova offers a close reading of three fanfiction stories in the Omegaverse genre, examines the “arranged marriage” trope, and discusses the fanfiction community's response when a sports star who was a leading character in RPF (real person fiction) was accused of rape. Proposing that fanfiction offers a powerful discursive resistance on issues of rape and consent that challenges dominant discourses about gender, romance, sexuality, and consent, Popova shows that fanfiction functions as a form of cultural activism.

    • Hardcover $30.00
  • Sexual Consent

    Sexual Consent

    Milena Popova

    An introduction to issues of sexual consent, covering key strands of feminist thought, how sexual consent is negotiated in practice, the influence of popular culture, and more.

    The #MeToo movement has focused public attention on the issue of sexual consent. People of all genders, from all walks of life, have stepped forward to tell their stories of sexual harassment and violation. In a predictable backlash, others have taken to mass media to inquire plaintively if “flirting” is now forbidden. This volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series offers a nuanced introduction to sexual consent by a writer who is both a scholar and an activist on this issue.

    It has become clear from discussions of the recent high-profile cases of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and others that there is no clear agreement over what constitutes consent or non-consent and how they are expressed and perceived in sexual situations. This book presents key strands of feminist thought on the subject of sexual consent from across academic and activist communities and covers the history of research on consent in such fields as psychology and feminist legal studies. It discusses how sexual consent is negotiated in practice, from “No means no” to “Yes means yes,” and describes what factors might limit individual agency in such negotiations. It examines how popular culture, including pornography, romance fiction, and sex advice manuals, shapes our ideas of consent; explores the communities at the forefront of consent activism; and considers what meaningful social change in this area might look like. Going beyond the conventional cisgender, heterosexual norm, the book lists additional resources for those seeking to improve their practice of consent, survivors of sexual violence, and readers who want to understand contemporary debates on this issue in more depth.

    • Paperback $15.95